The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Krennerich / Schubert / Osswald / Fischer:
Degrees Above (Creative Sources)

Four German saxophonists are heard in three sophisticated and extremely creative chamber-oriented improvisations recorded at Kulturzentrum Hufeisen from Andreas Krennerich on soprano, sopranino & baritone saxophones; Frank Paul Schubert on alto & soprano saxophones; Hartmut Osswald on tenor sax & bass clarinet; and Nils Fischer on baritone sax & contrabass clarinet. ... Click to View


Rodrigues / Rodrigues / Almeida / Hencleeday / Parrinha / Parrinha / Santos / Valinho:
Spiegel II (Creative Sources)

The concept of a Spiegel, or mirror, is explored by this perceptively patient electroacoustic octet led by violist Ernesto Rodrigues, each of the 3 tracks an evolution of the first recorded improvisation, the 2nd "Spiegel" layering and reacting to the first recording, and the 3rd to the previous two, ultimately reflecting a conversation of 24 virtual musicians. ... Click to View


Pan (Kim / Benes / Haag / Alsadi / Saremi):
I Had A Dream (Creative Sources)

Perhaps referring to their "Pan"-global membership, with improvisers from Europe, Iran, Palestine and South Korea, an unusual instrumentation including the kanun and keneche, the Pan quintet recorded this album using unconventional composing methods and the integration of sound processing and extraneous interjections, a truly unique album of encompassing improvisation. ... Click to View


Stephen Flinn:
Red Bell (Creative Sources)

An immersive album of solo percussion, slowly sculpted through bowed cymbals, tension across drum heads, resonance and extraneous percussive elements, from New York-based experimental percussionist, composer & improviser, each piece unfolding a meditative yet substantial story built of powerful elements, creating mysterious and often daunting soundscapes. ... Click to View


Schindler / Kepl:
Fabulierblattchen (Creative Sources)

Track titles are borrowed from Friederike Mayröcker for their "concentrated word acrobatics and linguistic sensuality", and apt analogy to the duo of Udo Schindler on clarinets & cornet, and Iren Kepl on violin, who are recorded live at the 95th Salon für Klang+Kunst Krailling in Munich, 2019, in a set of 9 delicately virtuosic dialogs that use extended and unusual techniques. ... Click to View


Naoki Kita / Guilherme Rodrigues / Naoto Yamagishi :
S/T (Creative Sources)

The trio of Portuguese cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, Japanese percussionist Naoto Yamagish currently residing in France, and Japanese violinist Naoki Kita, active in improvisation and contemporary fields in Portugal and Berlin, met in Saitama, Japan at Barber Fuji to record these open conversations integrating extraneous noise and incidental instrument sounds. ... Click to View


Rasmus Borg:
Improvisations (Creative Sources)

Seven improvisations for solo piano from Swedish composer and pianist Rasmus Borg, recording in Stockholm in a contemplative contemporary mode, as evidenced by titles like "Nocturne", "Waltz", "Toccata", &c, referencing established forms through instant compositions, a reflection of his statement that Borg likes "melody, harmony, going in circles, canons". ... Click to View


Franklin / Gill:
To My Left Is Where The Lake Is (Creative Sources)

A series of improvisations recorded in an afternoon in Melbourne, Australia between bass guitarist Joseph Franklin and saxophonist Sam Gill on alto & soprano, this the debut of their duo work that since 2018 has developed a unique discourse of adept interaction from calmly precise to rapid & disciplined exchanges, connected by with textural and exploratory periods. ... Click to View


Other Plastics (Dominic Coles / Hunter Brown):
Overtime Liquor (Creative Sources)

Unusual glitch and extreme electronics improvised by the duo of New York artist Dominic Cole and Chicago/NY artist Hunter Brown (Sound Tribe Sector Nine), using approaches including glitch, noise & circuit bending in 9 pieces with tongue-in-cheek titles, balancing erratic moments with exploratory sections and near silence, an interesting and enigmatic album of aberrant electronics. ... Click to View


[SNDNG STTNS] Kifpfmuller / Janek feat. Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues :
Case Study: Sertao (Creative Sources)

Since 2014 the collective [SNDNG STTNS] has explored theatrical situations between musictheatre, staging and composition with live music, instruments, recordings, samples, speach and live editing, this work featuring cellist Guilherme Rodrigues bridges the art of the brazilian "violeros" with contemporary music, acoustic and electronic composition and improvisation. ... Click to View


Cortex (Hoyer / Nilssen / Alberts / Johansson):
Legal Tender (Clean Feed)

Seriously joyful and consequential "avant-garde party music" from the Norwegian Cortex quartet of Ola Hoyer on double bass, Gard Nilssen on drums & percussion, Kristoffer Berre Alberts on saxophone, and Thomas Johansson on trumpet, in their 6th album of irresistible, upbeat free jazz. ... Click to View


Ballrogg (Ellerhusen-Holm / Arntzen / Stackenas):
Rolling Ball (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian trio Ballrog, which started as the duo of Klaus Ellerhusen-Holm on clarinet and Roger Arntzen on double bass, then expanded with guitarist Ivar Grydeland, who is replaced by guitarist David Stackenäus, a perfect choice for the lyrical chamber approach of intertwining lines and fluid melodic statement, with a sense of "free chamber americana"; beautiful. ... Click to View


Chrome Hill (Lerheim / Arntzen / Lofthus / Nymo):
This is Chrome Hill (Clean Feed)

Self-described as Scandinavian jazz rock noir, the Chrome Hill quartet of Asbjorn Lerheim on baritone guitar, Roger Arntzen on double bass, Torstein Lofthus on drums & vibraphone, and Atle Nymo on tenor saxophone, present a dramatic album of contrasts inspired by cinematic and musical moods, merging elements of folk, Delta blues and cowboy rock into their darkly cool sound. ... Click to View


Warriors of the Wonderful Sound Expanded Ensemble, The:
Soundpath (Clean Feed)

AACM legend Muhal Richard Abrams was commissioned by Philadelphia saxophonist Bobby Zankel to compose for Zankel's large ensemble Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, this monumental piece premiered in 2012, but only in 2018 was a 2nd performance possible, conducted by Marty Ehrlich and receiving 2 standing ovations, the band recording this studio version the next day at Drexel University. ... Click to View


Lencastre / Nuno / Faustino / Valinho:
Anthropic Neglect (Clean Feed)

Three heavy "Concept" pieces of electric jazz from the quartet of Lisbon saxophonist José Lencastre, electric bassist Felipe Zenicola (from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), drummer João Valinho and Jorge Nuno, a guitarist generally associated with psychedelic rock, as the band slowly seethes through a brew that flirts with rock and 70s fusion in unique ways. ... Click to View


Savina Yannatou / Joana Sa:
Ways of Not Seeing (Clean Feed)

A gorgeous and sinuous album of piano and voice from Portuguese pianist Joana Sá, using preparations and props to accompany the incredibly illustrative voice of Greek vocalist Savina Yannatou, whose profound skills create a sense of mystery and narrative that surpasses language and intent, creating something uniquely fragile yet fiercely alluring. ... Click to View


Luisa Goncalves :
Unno (Clean Feed)

A rich and lyrical album of solo piano improvisation from Lisbon-based Portuguese pianist Luísa Gonçalves, improvised yet merging elements of contemporary compositional music into beautiful and graceful forms that she reveals in a contemplative and pensive mood, savoring her notes and progressions while allowing melody to come forward in sophisticated ways. ... Click to View


Joao Lobo (Lobo / Lobo / Kempeneer):
Simorgh (Shhpuma)

Drummer Joao Lobo's trio with guitarist Norberto Lobo and double bassist Soet Kempeneer perform the drummer's dynamic compositions, along with one traditional works, a tight trio of highly interactive playing and a sense of familial interplay as the band weaves around Lobo's layered drumming and emphatic grooves, taking time for introspection among their energetic spontaneity. ... Click to View


Andre Goncalves :
Instrumentals (Shhpuma)

A compilation of compositions for conventional, acoustic, musical instruments, performed through synthetics and computer processing as an album of electronic music, composed by Lisbon based sound and media artist André Gonçalves, each of 9 parts simply titled "Instrumental", and each a fascinating microcosm of kinetic, synthetic-acoustic potential. ... Click to View


Kahil El'Zabar:
Kahil El'Zabar's America The Beautiful (Spiritmuse Records)

Chicago multi-percussionist Kahil El'Zabar composes, arranges and conducts a tour de force musical testament to speak about the turbulent issues in America and the world today, as well as his hopes and love for a better tomorrow, in a 12-piece ensemble including Hamiet Bluiett, Tomeka Reid, Corey Wilkes, Dennis Winslett, and the James Sanders String Quartet. ... Click to View


Sabu Toyozumi / Rick Countryman / Simon Tan / Isla Antinero / Stella Ignacio:
The Search for the Five Senses (Sol Disk Records)

Recorded during Sabu Toyozumi's first collaboration with Rick Countryman in 2017, this album features music from the same nights that produced Jya-Ne and Center of Contradiction: 6 tracks from an August 11th quintet performance with voice and trombone, and electric bass; plus 2 tracks from the following night in a trio format with acoustic bass. ... Click to View


Schubert / Schlippenbach / Blume:
Forge (Relative Pitch)

"Merge" aptly describes the nearly telepathic interplay between these three European Free Improv masters -- Alexander von Schlippenbach on piano, Frank Paul Schubert on alto & soprano saxophones, and Martin Blume on drums -- recorded live in 2019 at Ruhr Jazz Fest, in Bochum, Germany, for an expansive 47 minute improvisation and a brief "Forgin the Work" conclusion. ... Click to View


Jooklo Trio (Genta / Vanzan / Lopez):
It Is What It Is (Relative Pitch)

A raucous blast of free jazz, electrifyingly extending the Italian improv unit Jooklo Duo of drummer/percussionist David Vanzan and saxophonist Virginia Genta, here on amplified tenor & sopranino saxophones, with New York improviser Brandon Lopez on electric bass, burning six hair-raising pieces of aggressive free improv of exemplary relentlessness. ... Click to View


Samara Lubelski :
Partial Infinite Sequence (Relative Pitch)

Performing solo on violin with surrounding effects that emphasize the dramatic tension in her extended sequences, Samara Lubelski presents two substantial journeys into the infinite, swirling in delays and reverb as her bow transitions from rapid up and down to long drawing and sustaining, pulling a variety of sounds that elate her listeners in spirals and eddies. ... Click to View


Susanna Gartmayer / Christoph Kurzmann:
Smaller Sad (Klanggalerie )

The first meeting between the Austrian duo of bass clarinetist Susanna Gartmayer and Christof Kurzmann, here using ppool software, voice and rubber band, creating 4 elusive and immersive works that float somewhere in the void between experimental electronics, improvisation and song, creating diaphanous tension and mysterious environments; spellbinding. ... Click to View


Tomeka Reid / Joe Morris:
Combinations (RogueArt)

New York and Chicago string improvisers combine for an album of dense abstractions through individual lines that weave between the two players, briefly combining then moving off to independent methods, as guitarist Joe Morris and cellist Tomeka Reid meet in a Brooklyn studio to record ten improvisations, including one each dedicated to their home cities. ... Click to View


Charlotte Greve / Vinnie Sperrazza / Chris Tordini:
The Choir Invisible (Intakt)

The first recording for the New York-based trio formed in 2017 by Germany/NY saxophonist Charlotte Greve, Brooklyn-based bassist Chris Trodini and drummer Vinnie Sperazza, all three composing for the band as they integrate composed structures and improvised sections with an ear towards lyrical interplay, create a diverse and optimistic first outing of buoyant jazz. ... Click to View


Christoph Irniger Trio (w / Raffaele Bossard / Ziv Ravitz):
Open City (Intakt)

Swiss saxophonist & composerChristoph Irniger extends his long-running trio of bassist Raffaele Bossard and drummer Ziv Ravitz with Brooklyn alto saxophonist Loren Stillmand and German trombonist Nils Wogram, combining arrangement and improvisation in the jazz tradition, performed with inventive clarity and a strong regard for melody, making this an upbeat and creative album of modern jazz. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Miguel Almeida / Andre Lanca / Bernardo Alvares / Felice Furioso:
Un Seul Regard Le Chant Petri De Beaute Un Mot Vert (Creative Sources)

Acoustic and sublime minimal acoustic improvisation with an emphasis on strings from the Portuguese quintet of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Almeida on acoustic guitar, Andre Lanca on electric guitar, Bernardo Alvares on double bass, and Felice Furioso on percussion, performing live during the Small Format Materials Festival at Galeria Monumental, in Lisbon. ... Click to View



  •  •  •     Join Our Mailing List!



The Squid's Ear
Facebook: Squidco Sales



  Susie's Aria  

Drummer Susie Ibarra Premieres her First Opera


By Steve Smith
Photos by Kurt Gottschalk 2003-06-20

Susie Ibarra Ever since Susie Ibarra burst onto the international jazz scene in the early 1990s, the versatile young percussionist and composer has made it eminently clear that there is no boundary to her artistic vision, nor any assumption she was content to leave unchallenged. As a member of groups led by David S. Ware, William Parker and Matthew Shipp, Ibarra held her own among decidedly heavyweight company in a field still largely dominated by male performers. The ferocious energy and sinuous grace of her drumming cast aside any considerations of gender, as she quickly became a much-demanded collaborator for such leading maverick artists as Derek Bailey, John Zorn and Pauline Oliveros.

Ibarra stepped out on her own as a bandleader in 1999, asserting her growing confidence as a composer. Her fresh, original musical voice bears the influence of jazz, blues, contemporary composition, gamelan and the traditional music of her Philippine heritage. That voice has been manifested in a chamber music-influenced trio, a fiery mainstream jazz quartet and the hypnotically grooving Electric Kulintang project. At the same time, Ibarra has also been active in the free-improv trio Mephista, alongside pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and electronics performer Ikue Mori.

For most performers, the furious pace at which Ibarra's calendar fills up would prove more than sufficient. But for the last year, she was also hard at work on a project that any composer might find daunting, and one that most jazz-related artists would never consider tackling in the course of a career: The 32-year-old composer has just completed her first opera.

Based on a libretto by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Shangri-La received its world premiere on June 14 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton, New Jersey, produced by Passage Theater Company. Despite its bucolic title, Shangri-La is a challenging work, taking as its subject matter three Western businessmen drawn into the sex trade in Thailand, and their inability to escape the situation in which they find themselves.

The two-hour chamber opera featured a nine-member cast with a traditional Thai vocalist, two sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, two tenors, a baritone and a bass-baritone. Noted composer Tania Leon led an ensemble that included regular Ibarra collaborators Craig Taborn on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Roberto J. Rodriguez on percussion, alongside flutist Thea Reynolds, violinists Meg Okura and Joyce Hammon, violist Carol Cook and cellist Egil Rostad. Ibarra herself did not perform in the piece, for which she supplied a through-composed score that still provides for a degree of improvisatory freedom from the soloists.

Perhaps the most obvious question is why Ibarra would be interested in composing an opera at all. Blame it on her youth: Opera played an important role in Ibarra's childhood. "My mother took me to the opera when I was a kid," she said, her voice animated by a breathless ebullience that colors a conversation generously punctuated by laughter. "She had season tickets. My father's not an opera fan, and my brothers and sisters didn't want to go. I was the youngest, so I would be the one going with her."

For Ibarra, who grew up in Seabrook, Texas, a small town located between Houston and Galveston, this meant seeing first-class performances at Houston Grand Opera, one of the nation's most renowned and ambitious companies. "I grew up seeing incredible productions at Houston Grand Opera. In a way, this project takes me back to my childhood, because I have all these memories of different classical operas."

It was partially that childhood familiarity that led Ibarra to sign onto the current project when Komunyakaa, who conceived Shangri-La, proposed it to her. A Trenton resident and Princeton University professor, Komunyakaa is widely revered for his rhythmic, almost reportorial style. Many of his works have touched on musical themes; one, the epic-length Testimony, based on the life and art of Charlie Parker, was adapted as an opera by Australian jazz composer and saxophonist Sandy Evans for broadcast by the Australian Radio Company in 1999, and staged by the Melbourne Festival at the Sydney Opera House in January of this year.

Ibarra first met Komunyakaa in 1997, and felt an immediate affinity with the Louisiana-born poet. She accompanied him in several readings, and played behind him on Herido, a vibrant, bluesy session Komunyakaa co-led with Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez, which was issued by 8th Harmonic Breakdown in 2001. Despite her youthful passion for mainstream operatic lore, however, what attracted Ibarra most to Komunyakaa's project was its thoroughly contemporary subject matter - a refreshing anomaly in a contemporary opera scene still predominately mired in the reheated verismo of recent pieces like Therese Raquin, Little Women and A View from the Bridge.

"Yusef originally had the idea [for the opera] from a magazine article he came upon," Ibarra said. "It mentioned how British and European businessmen were going over to Thailand on sex tours, and how they were committing suicide and never coming back. It's set in Bangkok, but it touches on things that happen in a lot of countries, not just Southeast Asia. This stuff goes on in Cuba, it goes on in Eastern Europe, it happens pretty much everywhere. It's a story about paradise and hell-and how paradise can turn into hell-and it also touches on the AIDS epidemic, which is out of control in the sex trade."

The main character in Shangri-La is John Wong, "a Chinese-American metaphysical detective from San Francisco who is hired to go to Bangkok to investigate an embezzlement scheme," according to Ibarra. The three western businessman are Paul, a middle-aged African-American Vietnam veteran, Eddie, a troubled younger man, and David, the sleazy drug smuggler who is actually guilty of the crime Wong is investigating. Alee is a waitress who has a sideline in translating letters into English. Other characters include three women, Noe, Mana and Pidang, and the Barker, who runs the club. The cast may be unconventional, but the drama that results from their intersection is certainly operatic in scope.

"As musicians, we live with music and sound," Ibarra said. "We write songs, not characters. But writers live with these characters. So I've been living with these characters, and it's been really cool to experience that. Living with these characters for such a long time, they become real, like they're right behind you. It really is fun."

Though it may initially seem far-fetched to imagine an opera written by an avant-garde jazz drummer, for anyone who knows Ibarra's own recordings, it doesn't take a giant leap of imagination to understand why Komunyakaa sensed that she might be up to the challenge. Much of the music she has composed for her trio - particularly the current lineup that features Taborn and violinist Jennifer Choi - combines the rigor and transparency of chamber music with an unmistakable sense of narrative drama.

Increasingly recognized for her work as a composer, Ibarra was recently commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to compose Lakbay, an extended suite for her trio that was premiered in December at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC, in conjunction with an exhibition of photography by Filipino American artist Ricardo Alvarado. Ibarra has been tapped to write two new works for the Kronos Quartet (she will also perform in one of them), and she is also scoring two forthcoming documentariesby Chinese filmmaker Yan Jin.

Still, while Ibarra is not the first jazz composer to take a crack at opera,there have been few predecessors to whom she could turn for inspiration. The best known, of course, is pianist Anthony Davis, whose first opera, X, based on the life of Malcolm X, was produced to widespread acclaim in Philadelphia and New York in 1986. (It's notable, perhaps, that Davis-like his fellow improvisor Ibarra-was drawn to a contemporary subject for operatic treatment.) Davis has since composed three further operas: Under the Double Moon, a science fiction work; Tania, based on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; and Amistad, detailing the historic slave-ship revolt and subsequent trial.

Other jazz composers have turned to more archetypal allegories for their operatic subjects, such as Leroy Jenkins's Mother of Three Sons, successfully staged by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at Houston Grand Opera and elsewhere, and Anthony Braxton's Trillium R: Shala Fears for the Poor, critically lambasted after its New York premiere. Julius Hemphill employed a still more idiosyncratic approach in his Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera, abstaining from using singers altogether. The one thing that unites all of these disparate works, unfortunately, is that none has found a place in the standard repertoire and only three (X, Tania, Trillium R) have been recorded, making it nearly impossible for a young artist like Ibarra to hear and learn from them.

Instead, Ibarra immersed herself in contemporary opera scores and recordings. She cites György Ligeti's dark, surreal Le Grande Macabre as a particular favorite, owing in part to its near-improvisatory freedom of expression. Ibarra admits to having been a bit overwhelmed initially by the notion of composing a work of such scale, particularly in light of her own daunting schedule. "I was intimidated by the fact that it could be quite long!" she said. "To me, time was of the essence. But you just have to break it down, and you just do it-like anything, you just begin.The libretto was written pretty quickly, and I find Yusef's words very musical, so it was really easy for me to write with them."

When she finally began to compose Shangri-La in earnest, the music that poured forth reflected her own personality and that of her collaborator, rather than slavishly imitating any particular past master. "Whatever you do, it's going to sound like you," Ibarra says. "There's an influence of Thai music, both traditional percussion and the classical court style. There's some gong music. And there's definitely a blues influence, because I feel that Yusef's writing is so heavily influenced by the blues. It's really kind of an interpretation of his words."

Given the difficulties and expense involved in mounting operatic productions, it's far too soon to tell what the ultimate fate of Shangri-La will be. Ibarra's prognosis is upbeat, however; Passage Theatre hopes to mount a full-scale production of the work, and presenters in New York City and elsewhere have indicated their interest. Meanwhile, emboldened by the experience of creating the work, Ibarra eagerly envisions an ongoing working relationship with Komunyakaa.

"In an age of specialization, people just concentrate in their own medium," she says. "It used to be that artists were collaborating all the time. We've developed this great collaboration, and we have a lot of other ideas. We work well in this medium, and we get the chance to talk about a lot of important things that I think need to be talked about."



The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
independent writers.

Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Kahil El'Zabar:
Kahil El'Zabar's
America The
Beautiful
(Spiritmuse Records)



Chrome Hill
(Lerheim /
Arntzen /
Lofthus /
Nymo):
This is
Chrome Hill
(Clean Feed)



The Warriors of
The Wonderful Sound
Expanded Ensemble, :
Soundpath
(Clean Feed)



Ballrogg
(Ellerhusen-Holm /
Arntzen /
Stackenas):
Rolling Ball
(Clean Feed)



Cortex
(Hoyer /
Nilssen /
Alberts /
Johansson):
Legal Tender
(Clean Feed)



Susanna Gartmayer /
Christoph Kurzmann:
Smaller Sad
(Klanggalerie )



Schubert /
Schlippenbach /
Blume:
Forge
(Relative Pitch)



Alexander von Schlippenbach:
Piano Solo:
Slow Pieces
or Aki
(Intakt)



James Lewis Brandon
Quartet
(w/
Taylor /
Ortiz /
Jones):
Molecular
(Intakt)



John Blum /
Jackson Krall:
Duplexity
(Relative Pitch)



Evan Parker:
Monoceros
[VINYL]
(Treader)



Horace Tapscott /
The Pan Afrikan
Peoples Arkestra:
Ancestral Echoes:
The Covina Sessions,
1976
(Dark Tree Records)



Jim O'Rourke:
Shutting Down Here
[VINYL]
(Portraits GRM)



Moore /
Prevost /
Yarde:
Nous
(Matchless)



Butcher /
Prevost /
Viltard:
Iklectik Live One
(Matchless)



Kordik /
Lucas /
Prevost:
High Laver
Reflections
(Matchless /
Earshot)



Nate Wooley:
Seven Storey
Mountain VI
(Pyroclastic Records)



Mary Halvorson's
ode Girl:
Artlessly Falling
(Firehouse 12 Records)



Ernesto Rodrigues /
Carlos Santos:
Metamorfose
(Creative Sources)



Hermione Johnson:
Tremble
(Relative Pitch)







Squidco
Click here to
advertise with
The Squid's Ear






The Squid's Ear pays its writers.
Interested in becoming a reviewer?




The Squid's Ear is the companion magazine to the online music shop Squidco !


  Copyright © Squidco. All rights reserved. Trademarks. (692)